Cardinal Jean-Claude Turcotte remembered as a humanitarian

Cardinal Jean-Claude Turcotte was remembered on Friday as a hockey-loving humanitarian whose thoughts were never far from society's less fortunate.

Funeral in downtown Montreal draws thousands including religious leaders, politicians

Moire than 1,400 people gathered inside at Montreal's Mary Queen of the World Cathedral on Friday, April 17, 2015 for the funeral for Cardinal Jean-ClaudeTurcotte . ( Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press)

Cardinal Jean-Claude Turcotte was remembered on Friday as a hockey-loving humanitarian whose thoughts were never far from society's less fortunate.

Former premier Lucien Bouchard told Turcotte's funeral his friend never forgot his roots even as he climbed the Roman Catholic hierarchy to serve as archbishop of Montreal for 22 years.

"He was brought up in a modest family and he imbued himself with the example of his parents, the sense of sacrifice, of family love, and of the spirit of helping one another that existed in his neighbourhood," Bouchard told mourners at Mary Queen of the World Cathedral.

"He never turned his back on that. On the contrary, it became the centrepiece of his actions. Hence his sensitivity to poverty and human struggle, his lack of pretension as well as the frugality in his personal life."

Turcotte, who died April 8 after a lengthy illness at the age of 78, was ordained a priest in 1959, named bishop in 1982 and then archbishop of Montreal eight years later by Pope Jean-Paul II.

Turcotte become a cardinal in October 1994 and retired as archbishop in 2012.

Another person to address the funeral was Nicole Fournier, the former head of the Accueil Bonneau anti-homeless organization, who described Turcotte as a man who had faith in God but also in common people.

"You watched over people with a look that was never judgmental," she said. "You were a man who was readily available to welcome, encourage and give people advice. You supported many social causes, especially those touching the less fortunate, notably the homeless.

"This legacy you have left us will live in us for a long time. Rest in peace and watch over us."

Huge hockey fan

Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre praised Turcotte as an "inspiration" and a "role model."

"He was always there for others," Coderre said before the service. "He was a monument, imposing, but he was exceptionally accessible. He was a shepherd, a leader...He had so much humility.

"He's someone we're going to miss. I'm losing more than a friend. I'm losing a brother today."

Coderre also recalled having many conversations with Turcotte about the cardinal's beloved Montreal Canadiens.

"So I'm sure we have a plug upstairs to talk to the ghosts to make sure we win the game tonight (Friday's Game 2 of the Habs' playoff series against the Ottawa Senators). You can bet he'll be watching the game.

"He was a great Habs fan...He felt a lot for Jean Beliveau so I guess they're gathering together today to talk about how P.K. Subban will react to the game tonight."

Others who attended the funeral included Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard, ex-premier Bernard Landry, NDP Leader Tom Mulcair and Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney, who represented the federal government.

Many religious leaders, including Toronto Archbishop Thomas Collins and Halifax Archbishop Anthony Mancini, were also present.

Turcotte grabbed headlines in 2008 when he returned his Order of Canada to protest the decision to bestow the honour on Dr. Henry Morgentaler, the well-known abortion pioneer.

"You make him a national hero while what he defends offends very deeply and causes indignation among a significant portion of the population," he said. "There are limits and I have to protest this."

During the 1984 papal visit, the provincial government assigned Turcotte to represent Quebec bishops and to oversee the co-ordination of the trip in the Montreal diocese.


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